Friday, September 4, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case: Football & Newsmagazines

The acclaimed season preview Best Case/Worst Case is back for a fourth season! This is a "sneak preview" edition, just looking at some of the soon-to-premiere news and sports series that are not exactly the main draw on this site. Since the interest in these shows is relatively low, and since I haven't completely finalized the format, both the tables and the writeups will be a somewhat condensed version. Don't worry, each show's previous timeslot occupants and best case/worst cases will be back once we get into entertainment programming, starting on September 14.

Saturday Night Football
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
1.93 +7% 115 hit(Fri) Saturday 8:00

CFB on Fox
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
0.82 +4% 49 flop Saturday 8:00

Saturday Night Football premieres tomorrow, September 5. Fox has a couple late afternoon games to start the season, with CFB on Fox beginning its primetime run on September 19.

In a Nutshell: In the inaugural year of a four-team College Football Playoff, it was a year of growth for the college football franchises on both ABC and Fox, bouncing back from surprisingly stinky 2013 seasons.

Likeliest: The broad point is that Playoff seems to have legitimately increased the interest in the college game. Four teams making it to the end rather than two inherently makes it more likely that these franchises will have relevant games throughout the season. However, the star power in the college game seems a bit lacking this year. Will anyone capture the imagination like Florida State? Their thrilling finishes accounted for almost all the big games on ABC last year. Meanwhile, Fox's growth was almost entirely driven by one game: Michigan State/Oregon. (And this year's rematch actually airs on ABC.) These factors make me a bit shaky, especially with Fox. I'll put both down just a touch, with ABC at a 1.90 (best case 2.30/worst case 1.60), and Fox at 0.77 (best case 0.95/worst case 0.60).

Sunday Night Football
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
7.65 -3% 455 megahit Sunday 8:30

Thursday Night Football
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
5.91 352 megahit Thursday 8:30

Sunday Night Football returns to NBC with a Thursday special on September 10, then moves to Sunday on September 13. Thursday Night Football is back on CBS and the NFL Network on September 17.

In a Nutshell: Sunday Night Football is a double-megahit and the top Live+SD series on TV (though it got a hell of a challenge from The Walking Dead in 2014-15). SNF grew in raw numbers for four straight years (2008-11) but has been down just barely for the past three.

CBS got into the primetime NFL game with Thursday Night Football last season. Even combining its ratings with the NFL Network audience (which is what the above numbers are), it was closer to the ESPN Monday Night Football average (4.84) than the NBC Sunday one.

Likeliest: The NFL's biggest story right now is the New England DeflateGate scandal, and NBC should do very well with the Patriots opener next Thursday. But SNF may have actually been better off if Brady's suspension had been upheld, setting up a week six return against Indianapolis. Before yesterday's ruling, I was gonna go even in raw numbers. As it is now, I'll take what has become the standard SNF drop lately: 3% to 7.40 (best case 8.20, worst case 6.70).

With Thursday Night Football, the question is whether people are still "finding" Thursday NFL as a cultural event, or whether it's gonna come down this year with some of CBS' massive inaugural season hype past it. I lean slightly toward the latter and come up with a 5% drop to a CBS/NFLN combined 5.60 (best case 6.20, worst case 5.00).

A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
1.27 -14% 75 hit(Fri) Friday 10:00

20/20 premieres Friday, September 11.

In a Nutshell: Riding the back of Shark Tank, one of the biggest Friday hits in recent years, 20/20 has seen a bit of a reinvigoration in the last few seasons. But though Shark Tank dropped less than league average yet again in 2014-15, 20/20 declined more sharply for the most part. (However, if you count the Bruce Jenner: The Interview special in the regular 20/20 average, it was actually up in raw numbers.)

Likeliest: 20/20 had some surprisingly ugly results last year, and it hasn't really trended any better in summer telecasts. I'm on the fence about whether Shark Tank can actually pull off another positive season in A18-49+. It's also regularly facing Dateline at 10/9c, though that may not be the case all season. And yet, it's a reliable newsmagazine, so I can't go down more than a sliver in A18-49+. Down 11% to a 1.13 (best case 1.30, worst case 0.98).

Dateline Friday
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
1.16 -8% 69 solid(Fri) Friday (various)

Dateline premieres Friday, September 25.

In a Nutshell: Dateline picked up major steam in the Friday landscape with just 2% raw declines in 2012-13 and 2013-14. It was closer to but still not quite at a league average decline in 2014-15. Its 69 Plus was the best for Friday Dateline since the first half of the aughts.

Likeliest: You never really know how NBC will schedule this show. It will likely have two-hour telecasts early in the season, then contract to just the 10/9c hour when Grimm and comedies show up. And it's probably not a big reach to say it could eventually end up at 8/7c, while a new drama pairs with Grimm. Ultimately, that'd be fairly similar to how it was scheduled last year (though a bit in reverse), and the summer ratings have not suggested an improved trend. So I'll take it -9% to a 1.06 (best case 1.20, worst case 0.90).

48 Hours
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
0.82 -2% 49 flop Saturday 10:00

48 Hours premieres Saturday, September 26.

In a Nutshell: Saturday staple 48 Hours had been one of the few newsmagazines on the Plus decline in recent years, but it held up extremely well in 2014-15. Its 49 A18-49+ was the show's best since 2008-09.

Likeliest: Perhaps this show is due to give back some of its great hold from last year, but this is a world in which pretty much every other newsmagazine is hitting its highest Plus in years. And the summer repeats have stayed on about the same good year-to-year trend. It's got another less-than-average decline in it: down 7% to a 0.76 (best case 0.85, worst case 0.65).

60 Minutes
A18-49y2y A18-49+ Label 2014-15 Slot
1.73 -12% 103 solid Sunday 7:00

60 Minutes premieres Sunday, September 27.

In a Nutshell: The longest-running primetime program still gets great treatment from CBS, leading directly out of late afternoon NFL games. That lead-in has become increasingly valuable as the NFL has grown and entertainment ratings have declined, making 60 Minutes a regular grower in Plus. But not in 2014-15: it lost A18-49+ ground (though just a smidge) for the first time in five years.

Likeliest: It's hard to predict an NFL lead-out to lose steam in A18-49+ for two straight years. The general trend with this show has been up, and that should continue in 2014-15. But I'm not getting too crazy here since things have gotten pretty ugly on CBS Sunday in the winter and spring. -7% to a 1.61 (best case 1.80, worst case 1.44).

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